The much anticipated clash between world champion Magnus Carlsen and his challenger Fabiano Caruana developed into a fascinating thriller, while Viswanathan Anand had a long but quiet game against Alexander Grischuk in the 7th round of the Sinquefield Cup where all the games ended in draws. The leaderboard remains unchanged, with Caruana on the top with 4.5 points followed by Grischuk, Aronian, Mamedyarov and Carlsen on 4. Anand maintains his unbeaten run and remains on 3.5 points.
After Caruana won the Candidates tournament in March 2018 and earned the right to challenge Carlsen for the world champion title, they have played two tournaments alongside each other. Both at the Grenke Classic in Germany during April 2018 and Altibox Chess in Norway during June 2018, the challenger emerged as the winner ahead of the champion. During the opening ceremony of the ongoing Sinquefield Cup, both the players had a friendly tease of a trash talk mentioning this. As the World championship match is scheduled for November 2018, the result of this tournament too is psychologically important for both the players.
Also, Caruana leading Carlsen and three more players by half a point with three more rounds to go, this game was the best chance for Carlsen to defeat him to win the tournament.
It was in this backdrop that the all important clash between these two players came up at the Saint Louis Chess Club here, dubbed by the chess community as ‘Super Saturday’. Many of the major sports Press of the US had come in attendance, the start of the game seeing a buzz of filming and photographic activity with the spectator arena of the playing hall closed for the first half an hour for the first time.
With such attention on the game, Magnus Carlsen rose to the occasion to conduct a controlled assault on Caruana's Petroff defence. Kings castled on opposite sides of the board, Carlsen's attack took on serious proportions by the 20th move. Caruana cleverly forced exchange of queens on the 21st move, a defensive ploy to diffuse the attack by swapping the opponent's most dynamic piece. However, Carlsen still persisted with the attack, sensing the ability of his rooks in the h & g lines to develop an initiative.
Pressure caught up with Caruana, as he faltered in his defense with successive mistakes on 23rd and 24th moves, giving Carlsen a winning advantage by the 26th move.
Here began a surprising phase of the game, Carlsen consuming a lot of time in the clock in a position without any great complications. Choosing a series of secondary moves letting the advantage slip away, Carlsen came within less then a minute to complete the last five moves of the first time control. Visibly under pressure, he let all his advantage slip away to finally settle for a draw in 41 moves.
Carlsen’s mistakes in this game are bound to have an effect on his preparations for the world championship, while Caruana might have discovered a chink in the champion’s armour.
Anand decided to switch his opening and resorted to the Giuoco Piano against Grischuk, and played along established lines. Playing quickly, he introduced a new move on the 13th move but found Grischuk playing solidly to neutralise white’s initiative. The game ended in a draw on the 32nd move but the equilibrium of balance was never threatened.
While the previous round had full-fledged fights in all boards but with many errors at crucial junctures, the 7th round was generally a peaceful affair in other three games too. Since the Sinquefield Cup is held immediately after the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz event, the energy levels of the players seem to be markedly low affecting their playing level and motivation.
Results (7th Round):
Carlsen (4) Drew Caruana (4.5)
Anand (3.5) Drew Grischuk (4)
Aronian (4) Drew Wesley So (3)
Karjakin (2) Drew Mamedyarov (4)
Vachier-Lagrave (3.5) Drew Nakamura (2.5)
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Updated Date: Aug 26, 2018 13:31:02 IST